What IS Pilates?
Pilates technique is based on eight principles which form the basis of each session. Pilates has become known as a ‘mind-body’ form of exercise and the principles below sum up many of the reasons why and the benefits that most people find from regular practice.
Concentration – Pilates has been called the ‘thinking way of moving’ because each movement is controlled by focused thought. Unlike other exercise systems where you can let your mind wander you really have to focus on the technique which means that most people find the method a good way to 'switch off' for an hour.
Breathing – correct breathing is a major part of the technique although most people find it the hardest to master. It doesn’t matter at first and I always reassure beginners that as long as they keep breathing at the start that is the main thing! However as you begin to master the breathing you will discover how beneficial it is.
Centring – Pilates technique uses our ‘core muscles’ which are also known as our centre. All the movements are controlled from our core and as we strengthen these muscles so our posture improves. The centre is not just our tummy muscles though! In Pilates we use the whole torso from hips to shoulders to control the movements and therefore build strength.
Control – Each exercise is done with slow, controlled movement working against gravity to improve our overall strength.
Precision – Each exercise starts in a specific position which ultimately means that each movement is performed with precise technique.
Flowing Movements – Each exercise is performed with control and precision but also as one continuous flowing movement in order to work the body through a full range of motion.
Isolation – Each person will feel each exercise in a slightly different way depending on their own strengths or weaknesses. As you become practiced at the technique you will learn to isolate specific muscles and target certain areas of the body.
Routine – As with any other activity your skill level in Pilates will increase with regular practice. However, Pilates is not designed to be the only exercise you do rather it should complement any training program and strengthen your body for any activity you require. Pilates is a great way to start exercising, especially if you haven’t done anything for a while or are suffering from back problems.
The 34 Moves
During our matwork classes I quite often refer to the original 34 moves devised by Joseph Pilates. Some of the modern day Pilates moves, such as the Spine Twist and One Leg Stretch, are very recognisable and very similar to their original ancestors whereas some of the original work is never, or very rarely, taught in modern day matwork classes.
We wouldn’t necessarily want to always and only perform the original 34 moves – the modern day repertoire allows us a much wider scope to work with – BUT they are VERY challenging and learning the original moves certainly helps to deepen our understanding of the technique. I also think it’s nice to challenge ourselves occasionally in a different way to normal!
This is why I try to include at least one original version of an exercise in to each of the sessions I teach – so that everyone who comes to my class can feel the challenge of the original work but also gain a deeper understanding of their own bodies and the moves we perform in class.
However, there are always alternatives and/or adaptations for anyone who needs them.
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